Dec. 2015 Advocate: “Workload Equity” is focus of new AFT 1493 campaign

“Workload Equity” is focus of new AFT 1493 organizing campaign

by Monica Malamud, AFT 1493 Secretary & Negotiating Team Member

For several years now, our local has recognized that the ever-increasing number of tasks that our members are asked to perform is a very concerning issue for faculty across our district.  A few years ago, AFT 1493 conducted a survey in order to collect objective data about their workload.

The excessive workload of faculty is caused by a variety of factors and may manifest itself in different ways for different faculty.  Some of the most frequent issues are:
•    Faculty are routinely expected to perform tasks which, although they might be interpreted as falling within the scope of work of faculty, did not exist when the duties and responsibilities in our contract were first negotiated.  Some examples are the burdensome accreditation demands for compliance, documentation, and reporting, the introduction of SLOs, with the associated ever-changing mechanisms for data collection and processing, and the never-ending proliferation of committees.
•    Faculty are pressured by administrators to perform functions that are not among faculty duties, and to work outside of the 175 days specified in the contract.
•    Technology changes require time-consuming training on matters unrelated to teaching, including migrations from one system to another.  Additionally, the availability of technology for communication purposes fuels the expectation that faculty are to be available 24/7 and beyond the 175 days in the academic year (plus summer teaching assignment, if applicable)
•    Workload is not spread evenly among the faculty.  There are faculty who do their share (according to the duties and responsibilities as defined in the contract years ago), and there are many more faculty who feel pressured to take on more than their share
•    Part-time faculty are often asked and encouraged to serve on committees and otherwise contribute to their colleges, and they are interested in participating, but they are commonly not compensated for their work outside the classroom.

Last year, Union and Senate leaders met to discuss the workload issue and identify possible courses of action to rectify the problems.  Conversations were also held in Senate meetings at the campus level.  At these meetings, faculty offered example after example of their ever-expanding workload. Some faculty shared their frustrations caused by the limitations of their time: After giving up sleep and personal time, they are not able to be as available as they would like to be to their students because they’re running from meeting to meeting or locked up in their office trying to finish yet another report; they find it extremely difficult to keep up with grading or provide valuable feedback to students; they pass on an excellent weekend conference because homework piled up throughout the week and weekends have already been set aside as the only time for catching up.  And beyond the weekly grind, some faculty even began to question whether they should consider leaving a profession they truly love.

For better and for worse, faculty working conditions impact students’ learning conditions.  Our students do not deserve faculty who are overworked, overextended and unavailable.  Our students do not deserve faculty who, despite their passion and commitment to education, are considering a career change out of disillusionment with their daily life.

The AFT has heard the faculty in our district loud and clear: the workload monster is out of control.  And we have also heard that faculty are hopeful that a solution to the workload issue will be found and they are eager to accomplish this.  The approach to tame this workload monster is to redefine the Duties and Responsibilities in our contract.  Although these duties and responsibilities were deliberately written with some degree of vagueness, in recognition of the fact that not every faculty member would perform identical tasks, this vagueness, compounded with our changing times, has resulted in excessive workloads and unreasonable working conditions for faculty.  We need to define more precisely what the duties and responsibilities of faculty are and set parameters.

As the entire contract is going to be open for negotiations soon, the union is prioritizing the workload issue with the goal of including it in upcoming negotiations. We intend to propose contract language in an attempt to resolve the ongoing and ever-increasing workload problems that faculty have been experiencing over time.  As we gear up for negotiations, we will be listening to you, asking you to participate, to contribute your ideas, and to help us deliver our message: we want workload equity!  We want our workload to be reasonable, manageable, fair and focused on serving our students.

Campaign to strengthen our union
The California Federation of Teachers (CFT) is embarking on a Building Power campaign, with the goal of strengthening local unions.  They have allocated resources for this campaign and will be working very closely with some locals so as to build power around each of those local’s issues.  We, AFT 1493, have been selected as one of 16 locals from around the state to which the CFT will provide targeted organizing assistance, tailored to our needs and goals.  And top priority needs and goals of our faculty are to achieve workload equity – a fair workload and fair pay for both full-time and part-time faculty.

On October 29 and November 4, Teeka James, Katharine Harer, Michelle Kern, Monica Malamud and Dan Kaplan met with Laura Kurre (CFT Training Director) and Zev Kvitky (CFT Field Rep.) to start planning this collaboration.  Based on the conversations we had at these meetings, Laura and Zev presented a draft proposal for our local’s participation in the CFT Building Power Campaign to the Executive Committee at the November AFT meeting.

In their presentation, Laura went over our local’s membership numbers, the goals of the campaign, and the general plan that we can follow in order to accomplish our goals.  This campaign will require the participation of members of the Executive Committee, and our local resources will be supplemented by the organizing wisdom and assistance of CFT’s Laura Kurre, Zev Kvitky and Paul Bissember (Organizing Project Staff.)

At the November AFT meeting, a Steering Committee for our Workload Equity campaign was also selected: Teeka, Katharine, Michelle, Dan and Monica.  The Steering Committee already met with Laura, Zev and Paul on November 20 to continue planning for the campaign.

In the coming months, you will have many opportunities to be part of our Workload Equity Campaign.  Stay tuned for updates.  We’re counting on you!